Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sonia Cacy: (Texas); Extraordinary article on her troubling arson "science" case; (Must Read HL);The Dallas Observer;

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: My thanks to  Scott Henson of "Grits for Breakfast" for drawing attention to the following article. As Henson writes: " The Dallas Observer's Brantley Hargrove has an excellent, extended piece out today with the same title as this post on the Sonia Cacy arson conviction, one of the cases that was reviewed by the state fire marshal for faulty forensics and found wanting. My employers at the Innocence Project of Texas are handling her post-conviction innocence claim, which includes a challenge of forensic evidence misinterpreted by an expert at trial to falsely claim there was accelerant (gasoline) used at the scene under Texas' new junk science writ. Fine reporting on a complex topic, read the whole thing."

STORY: "Burning injustice,"  by reporter Brantley Hargrove, published by the Dallas Observer on December 19, 2013.

SUB-HEADING: "Shaky evidence sent Sonia Cacy to prison for burning her beloved uncle to death. Now she's destitute and fighting the state to clear her name."

GIST: "The most troubling revelation, however, didn't come until the first day of Cacy's new sentencing hearing. Inside the Fort Stockton Police Department, Hurst reviewed the physical evidence. An unlined gallon paint can was handed to him. "I popped the can in the evidence room and looked into it and it was one of those Jesus moments," Hurst said. It contained shreds of Richardson's underwear that had been analyzed by a Dallas lab specializing in such testing. It found no accelerant. No one had seen this evidence before. In the last trial, a Mason jar was submitted as the sole container of Richardson's clothing remnants, and was characterized as positive for gasoline. The paint can, toxicologist Castorena had testified, contained only some nondescript "other stuff." What's more, the can was signed and dated by the medical examiner. The jar was not, causing Hurst to question where it had come from. Why had this been kept from Cacy's attorney? The same day, Hurst was given the test results Castorena relied on for his finding of the presence of an accelerant. Cacy's last attorney had never actually looked at them. Hurst had performed these kinds of tests before, using the same instrumentation. He wasn't seeing what Castorena saw. To get a second opinion, he showed the analysis to the same Dallas lab. The chemist told him that it certainly contained a number of byproducts from burning household items, but he did not detect the presence of gasoline either.
Hurst was stunned."


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